Book Review

Book Review | Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

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There are plenty of people out there who love Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, I however am not among them. This one popped up on a few lists I was trawling through for my next read. Lists like “Funniest books of all time” and “Best books of all time”, and so on… so I admit my hopes were high for this one.

But I found myself fighting not to give up on the book many times. There was just so much waffling I found myself skipping ahead as I pushed further into this novel.

The whole made up religion thing, Bokononism and the various paragraphs devoted to it throughout the novel, I just didn’t find funny at all though it was clear that was their intention. A religion founded on the believe that everything is founded on lies, including Bokononism.

The Blurb:

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he’s the inventor of ‘ice-nine’, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker’s three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker’s Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh…

So what sounds like an interesting premise and something that should appeal directly to me failed to do so. This book that was pegged in a “Funniest books of all time” list failed to raise even a smirk.

Disjointed and rambling are two words that first come to mind when thinking how to summarise the book. Maybe had I been around at the end of World War 2 or experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis first hand I might find more humour in this book, but alas for me it just fell flat.

TL;DR Version

Struggled to finish this one, but others seem to enjoy it. Check out the sample on Amazon and make up your own mind. At least you can’t say I didn’t try to warn you. 🙂

Book Review | The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III

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“Bizarro fiction? What’s that?” I thought to myself when I first heard the term. Of course, I needed to look up this previously unheard of genre, landing on suggestions. Most of them fall into the NSFW category, and I guess this one – The Haunted Vagina – does too, to a degree. Depends on how prudish your IT department is about the word ‘Vagina’.

Most examples I found looked as if they were trying to outdo each other with outlandish book titles. There are certainly some interesting ones out there…

Anyway, after a bit of a crawl through GoodReads I landed on this one that sounded less disturbing than others I’d seen, and sounded funny enough that it might be a good introduction to the genre.

What’s it about? The blurb:

It’s difficult to love a woman whose vagina is a gateway to the world of the dead…

Steve is madly in love with his eccentric girlfriend, Stacy. Unfortunately, their sex life has been suffering as of late, because Steve is worried about the odd noises that have been coming from Stacy’s pubic region. She says that her vagina is haunted. She doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal. Steve, on the other hand, completely disagrees.

When a living corpse climbs out of her during an awkward night of sex, Stacy learns that her vagina is actually a doorway to another world. She persuades Steve to climb inside of her to explore this strange new place. But once inside, Steve finds it difficult to return… especially once he meets an oddly attractive woman named Fig, who lives within the lonely haunted world between Stacy’s legs.

So that sets the scene. Stacy’s been hearing strange noises from down below for most of her life. One night after an adult-sized skeleton crawls its way out of her, she talks her boyfriend Steve into a mission to investigate.

Armed with walkie talkies and greased up like a Scotsman in an air duct, he ventures forth and finds Stacy is a doorway to an alternate reality.

It’s a short story, novella I guess at around 100 pages, but Mister Mellick packs quite a lot into those pages. The world he describes his both warped yet made vibrant and interesting by his words, and what happens once Steve gets trapped there kept me reading to the end.

Will I read more bizarre? I’m not saying no at this point, but it was a bit of an eye opener as a genre. I’ll see what GoodReads suggests as “also reads” once I’ve marked it as “Read”.

TL;DR Version

Certainly an eye-opener. An enjoyable short read. Check out the sample at Amazon.

Book Review | Phil! A Hilarious Account of Everything by RP Momsen

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I thought I might like this given the sample read similar to Douglas Adams, but it quickly became apparent that the book was basically trying to copy everything of the Hitchhikers Guide. Almost as if the author had read it, forgot parts of it, then had a go at writing the exact same book.

Just the things I noticed before giving up:

  • The Guide-like asides,
  • “Pan Universal Kumquat Juice” – I mean that’s not even trying to hide being a direct copy of “Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters”,
  • Losers sitting around in tatty bathrobes,
  • Spontaneous transformation into potted plants,
  • The Big Bang Bar featuring a show of the universe exploding.

If I wanted to read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, then I wouldn’t settle for a knock off. I just couldn’t get into this and just found I was more distracted looking for similarities to Hitchhikers than reading the story.

That said, over on GoodReads there are plenty of people who enjoyed it, so maybe it’s just not my cup of tea. I guess you could say this is more like a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

Book Review | 2 Shorts by Robert Bevan

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Robert Bevan is an author I’ve been reading for years now. His Critical Failures books in the Caverns and Creatures series are some of the most re-read books on my Kindle.

Between each Critical Failures books he puts out 6 short stories which eventually get bundled into their own six-pack. These are the most recent two which I read one after another (I was behind a little since it took a few weeks for them to get onto Kindle Unlimited).

They Fight Three Giants

While the title seems somewhat literal, you need to understand the short stories Mister Bevan puts out are always puns or jokes on whatever the theme is. Cornholed for example, isn’t about what you might think. Probing the Annis is another.

Anyway, a subset of our usual heroes are tricked into following a sorcerer through a portal where their doom awaits them. Not an uncommon occurrence for the hapless heroes, but Bevan always manages new and disgusting lows in which to take the story.

Tricked into becoming slaves / target practice for stone giants, the boys must escape. Through a series of misunderstandings they’re not sure which fate they’d prefer.


From the Bowels of Hell Hounds

Continuing the tradition and possibly one of the grossest covers yet, From the Bowels of Hell Hounds finds our heroes as escorts of a wagon filled with magical goodies on its way to an interesting character I really wouldn’t mind seeing more of, maybe in the canonical series.

Count Fabulazzo welcomes them, calling off his hell hounds just after they’ve barbequed the groups horses. PS – If you’re a horse lover then this series (not just this book) isn’t for you. They meet their demise in a startling array of horrors.

Tricked, of course, into accepting the mission which is really a ruse for them to become the fall guys for the real mission, they’ve no alternative to accept the quest set to them by the Count to retrieve what was stolen.

Fans of the podcast Authors and Dragons will enjoy the appearance of a religious zealot by the name of Sinas, who I couldn’t help but read in the voice of Rick Gualtieri’s “Silas Kane” voice.


Both of these were lots of fun to read. They’re non-canonical to the overall series so can be enjoyed as individual reads. What happens in these has no impact at all to the main story, but knowing the background of the characters helps understand their motives so if you haven’t yet, go read Critical Failures.

Book Review | The Rules of Supervillainy by CT Phipps

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This was a funny and entertaining book to read. So Gary, our “hero” of the story leads a dull life where he wants nothing more than to be a supervillain. Of course this wish is fulfilled when the magical cloak of the foremost (and newly deceased) hero of the city turns up on his doorstep.

Suddenly he gets everything he wants and becomes Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy. The tautology alone should give you an idea what this book is going to be like.

The Blurb:

Gary Karkofsky is an ordinary guy with an ordinary life living in an extraordinary world. Supervillains, heroes, and monsters are a common part of the world he inhabits. Yet, after the death of his hometown’s resident superhero, he gains the amazing gift of the late champion’s magical cloak. Deciding he prefers to be rich rather than good, Gary embarks on a career as Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy.

But is he evil enough to be a villain in America’s most crime-ridden city?

Gary soon finds himself surrounded by a host of the worst of Falconcrest City’s toughest criminals. Supported by his long-suffering wife, his ex-girlfriend turned professional henchwoman, and a has-been evil mastermind, Gary may end up being not the hero they want but the villain they need.

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Book Review | Goddamned Freaky Monsters by Rick Gualtieri

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I should preface this review with a <POSSIBLE SPOILERS> warning since Goddamned Freaky Monsters is book 5 in The Tome of Bill series. If you’ve not read the first four, maybe look away now.

After reading the first 4 books in quick succession I decided a short break was in order before continuing with the series. That short break turned into 6 months as other books kept demanding my attention.

But finally I’m back on the Bill train, having finished this one over the weekend and lining up to read the next one when I’m finished what I’m currently reading.

The Blurb:

Three months have passed since the fateful encounter in New York City that ended with the disappearance of Bill Ryder – gamer, geek, and legendary vampire. Now he’s back, awakened halfway across the globe with no allies, clothing, or clue as to how he got there. The only thing he’s certain of is that his captors plan to use him for their own nefarious ends and don’t care how much blood they spill in the process.

Escape might be the least of his worries, though. Civilization teeters on the brink of chaos. Mythical beasts, once thought the stuff of fantasy, are breaking through the veil, intent on waging war against mankind. At their forefront stands an ancient evil, the last remnant of a cult thought long dead, and he’s about to cut a swath of destruction through the world not seen since biblical times.

Bill’s only chance is to reclaim his life, reconcile with his friends, and muster every bit of attitude he can – because if he fails, Hell on Earth will become far more than just a corny saying.

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Book Review | Uncanny Sally by W. Lawrence

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Uncanny Sally, a short story by W. Lawrence who you may know from Synching Forward which sets up this universe.

Reading Synching Forward isn’t a prerequisite for reading this as it works as a standalone novel, but if you have, you’ll have a deeper understanding on what drives our protagonist, Amara.

The Blurb:

Sergeant Agent Amara James of the Department of Homeland Defense is reassigned from her anti-terrorism task force to investigate a murder. A popular actress has been found dead at the Sathee Robotics facility, and Amara’s investigation will uncover our inventions sometimes mimic us too closely. Uncanny Sally is a whydunnit told in the asimovian style that will keep you guessing till the very end.

The Syncing In series complements the novel Syncing Forward, following the investigations of Amara James as she desperately tries to find a cure for her father. These novelettes can be read and enjoyed independently from the original novel.

This is a hard-boiled detective techno-thriller set in the universe W. Lawrence created in Synching Forward. The story is narrated by Agent Amara as she recounts a recent case she solved. She’s recording her life so that when her father returns he can get to know who she is. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review | The Fantastic Fable of Peter Able by Natalie Grigson

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It’s tough being a fictional character. Peter, a now adult Boy Wizard, has been abandoned by his writer and left to fend for himself in the land of fiction.

The Fantastic Fable of Peter Able by Natalie Grigson showed up during my Kindle Scout campaign as a previous winner. I enjoy tales of characters left behind so was keen to check this one out. Peter and his pals in this one, the cast of NPCs by Drew Hayes and so on.

First, let’s check out the blurb:

The Fantastic Fable of Peter Able is a fantasy novel – with a twist. You see, Peter is a Boy Wizard. Or rather, Peter is an adult Boy Wizard who lives in the land of Fiction. His Real World author has abruptly concluded his series, and Peter is suddenly free to explore his world, liberated from the almighty Plotline. Of course the transition into free will isn’t exactly an easy one, and there are plenty of Twists and Turns to keep our Protagonist guessing along the way. After all, this is Fiction.

In the vein of authors like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, this book will delight fans, not just of fantasy, but of literature in general. There are plenty of familiar faces from Fiction appearing throughout, as well as many new ones, like Peter, the charming Randy, and a ficus tree named Bob – who, let’s be honest, doesn’t really have a face.

I know what you’re thinking: yet another story about a boy wizard. Well, don’t despair; yes Peter is a boy wizard but Harry Potter this is not.

This is an incredibly fun tale of what happens to fictional characters once their writers have abandoned them, or once their series have come to an end. It starts just as Peter realizes he is now free of his writer’s whims and can do what he likes… if he can work out how to open the door. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review | Critical Failures V by Robert Bevan

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Robert Bevan is someone I’ve been reading for a long time now, getting into his books a few years back and reading them all multiple times. His latest book in the series, Critical Failures V, has left me a little on the fence.

While each book in the series so far has followed the standard formula of problem at start -> solved at end + new cliff-hanger (introduced to keep you wanting the next one), this one meandered along without much urgency and ended without any real satisfaction.

In this one, the expanding cast of unique characters has been split into multiple groups as they set out to find Tim who they believe is trying to abandon them all in the game. The splitting of the party was something I particularly enjoyed as it allowed some lesser characters the chance to shine on their own, giving us a chance to get to know them better.

Mister Bevan does a great job at pulling together all the divergent paths the characters have taken by the end, but this is where it fell down for me. I looked at the progress bar on my Kindle and thought it must have been malfunctioning. It said 99% and I felt that the climax of the book was about to kick into gear, but instead I was left with a cliff-hanger ending without any real feeling of satisfaction.

I would have gladly waited another 6 months or a year or more to have this storyline play out to a more satisfactory conclusion. As it is, it feels like I only read half a book, and for a book that’s close to 100,000 words, it felt kind of short. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review | The Big Sleep by Meaghan Gray

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I very nearly passed this one by but now that I’ve finished it I’m glad that I didn’t. I say I almost passed it by because the way the opening chapters are written didn’t appeal to me. The quick chopping and jumping around between dreams was off-putting, but I skipped past them to where the real story starts. The opening is basically prologue and, thinking back on it now, could be dropped all together.

I get that we need to know the origins of what is happening, but I think it could be worked into the story much easier than how this book opens. Not all styles appeal to all people of course, so you might be different, but I found it difficult.

That said, once the real story starts just before the second Big Sleep, the plot takes off at a fast clip and barely slows down. It was this that kept me reading and why ultimately I enjoyed the book, even if I didn’t like the opening.

Mostly set inside the dream world, Ms Gray does an excellent job of keeping believability alive while injecting plenty of fantasy elements that could only be conjured up in a dream. The concept of the Greymen and the world they inhabit and what they do was a new one for me and were one of the things that piqued my curiosity about this novel in the first place.

A nice fat twist towards the end of the novel makes me want to read the next one, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the next book in this series.

The only other notes I made while reading this was Read the rest of this entry »